C. Kelsey Ryan, Graduate Associate - University of North Florida
April 4, 2018
It’s been a hard year for Fraternity and Sorority Life. The hazing allegations, the alcohol, the drugs, the racism, the deaths of members. These horrible situations have been so prominent in the media recently, that non-Greek affiliated friends and coworkers have asked me why I continue to support Greek organizations. So allow me, if you will, a few minutes to show you a different side of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Not to take away from these issues, but to explain why I, like so many others, will continue to support this community, as we desperately work to ensure all members stay true to the values set forth by our organizations.
Last semester, I traveled to Georgia to volunteer with my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. I, along with one other facilitator, an onsite coordinator (my sorority big sister), and 25 collegiate chapter women, spent our weekend at a local middle school with 40 middle school girls, ages 11-14. The chapter run event, called GIRLS Academy, is a day and a half retreat and focuses on respect, service, and leadership. These young women come from all walks of life, but have all had common experiences regarding bullying and feelings related to self-worth. The collegiate women and alumnae are afforded the opportunity to start some of those “hard” conversations with the participants, including topics such as bullying, body image and body shaming, and loving and respecting yourself. These conversations are critical for these girls, especially at this age and in a society that is constantly telling them they are not good enough.
Participants also learn about money and time management, STEM subjects, and complete a service project at their middle school. There is also plenty of laughter, ice cream, and dance parties, as another main focus of the weekend is to celebrate being a girl. It’s heartwarming to see the participants transition from shy, timid classmates on Saturday morning, to lively, vivacious friends on Sunday afternoon. Girls leave the weekend with new goals, aspirations, and dreams. The collegiate women leave the weekend with a changed perspective on life, as well.
When middle school participants tell you “I didn’t really have any life plans…. now I really want to go to a good college,” and that the weekend “boosts your self esteem and encourages you to make a difference,” you know the weekend was a resounding success. We, as Greek men and women, are given a unique opportunity to mentor and guide the next generation of leaders, and we do so with great tenacity and enthusiasm.
GIRLS Academy is one of many amazing programs offered by fraternities and sororities, and is just one example of why I will always fight for the future of Greek organizations. Kappa Kappa Gamma has given me so much since I joined in 2009, and my hope is that, for many generations to come, men and women will be offered the opportunity to have these amazing experiences, just as I was.
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